Stablecoin Billionaires - A Descriptive Analysis of the Ethereum-based Stablecoin Ecosystem

68 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2021

Date Written: November 25, 2020

Abstract

While Ethereum, the second largest public blockchain after Bitcoin, was experiencing a story of success over the past few years, Stablecoins grew to an integral component within the Ethereum-based decentralized finance (DeFi) ecosystem. Various issuers of cryptographically-secured digital money emerged and in particular Tether, the most widespread dollar-pegged cryptocurrency, received much attention in recent time. Using empirical data broadcasted by seven different Stablecoins and their Smart Contracts, I statistically examine both Ethereum's Stablecoin landscape as a whole and the individual token ecosystems. By incorporating qualitative information obtained by analyzing the contracts' Solidity code, I discovered extreme concentrations of power within the token contracts of centralized Stablecoins, while decentralized tokens such as DAI lacked structural power imbalances. Analyzing the costs, empirical data revealed that transfers of Stablecoins that are primarily used in decentralized environments, were on average up to eight times more expensive than those carried out with `centralized' tokens, which could be traced back to an efficiency trade-off in favor of decentralization. Furthermore, I found that emission- and destruction policies have a decisive impact on basic statistical measures such as the mean transfer amount or its standard deviation, both of which depend heavily on the applied distribution mechanism of a token. In an attempt to identify `High Rollers' within the analyzed ecosystem, the exchanges Huobi and Binance were exposed as Stablecoin billionaires, who together control 20 % of Ethereum's Stablecoin supply. Finally a very unequal distribution of wealth in favour of crypto-exchanges and DeFi applications was revealed.

Keywords: Stablecoins, Tether, USDT, Ethereum, DeFi, Decentralised Finance, ERC-20, Solidity, Blockchain, DAI, USD Coin, Paxos Standard, TrueUSD, Binance USD, HUSD

JEL Classification: C55, C58

Suggested Citation

Wahrstätter, Anton, Stablecoin Billionaires - A Descriptive Analysis of the Ethereum-based Stablecoin Ecosystem (November 25, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3737404 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3737404

Anton Wahrstätter (Contact Author)

University of Innsbruck ( email )

Universitätsstraße 15
Innsbruck, Innsbruck 6020
Austria

HOME PAGE: http://www.toniwahrstaetter.com

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